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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE instructor achieves her ballet dream

By Daniella Solis/reporter

NE dance instructor Kihyoung Choi coaches student Gina Castellani on a routine in her modern dance class.  Photo by Casey Holder/The Collegian
NE dance instructor Kihyoung Choi coaches student Gina Castellani on a routine in her modern dance class. Photo by Casey Holder/The Collegian

Kihyoung Choi overcame the obstacles of being considered an overweight late bloomer in the dance world to become a member of a national ballet company, co-founder of a dance group in Denton and an adjunct dance instructor on NE Campus.Choi is thankful for the journey of her career despite the adversity she faced.“I’m really thankful to God because I’m doing something I really love,” she said. “There aren’t many people out there that love their job.”

Choi has been an adjunct instructor at TCC since August 2009. She has danced professionally with the Korean National Ballet Company, is co-founder and dancer for Satellite Dance Collective, a modern dance company, has a bachelor’s degree in dance, a master’s in kinesiology and a doctorate in feminist pedagogy.

“Everything was hard, but I never complained,” she said.

Choi was born in Seoul, South Korea, and began dancing when she was 9. By the time she was 11, she knew she wanted to study dance.

She worked hard to prepare for her audition at a conservatory of arts middle school. She began training with the artistic dance director of the Korean National Ballet Company. Choi trained for five hours every day for six months until her audition.

She scored high on her theory exam, which included Korean, math and science, and was included in the school’s application process to become one of seven people in the country accepted as a ballet dance major.

But her challenges had only begun.

Choi wasn’t considered a good enough dancer by her school’s standards. She was what she called a “late beginner” because all the other girls had been dancing since they were 4.

Choi knew she wouldn’t have been accepted into the school if it hadn’t been for her high theory exam score. Her dance technique scores weren’t strong enough on their own, she said.

“I was so slow compared to my colleagues, and I had to try three times harder than them,” she said. “I felt intimidated, and I cried a lot, but my teacher saw the potential in me and encouraged me and really pushed me hard.”

Her teacher gave her private lessons, which helped her improve. Choi graduated with honors.

She admits that because of this teacher, she doesn’t go easy on her students.

“Sometimes, I push too much, but I’ve never had complaints from a student about me pushing too hard,” she said.

Choi’s other obstacle was her weight. She was considered fat in the dance world.

Another teacher at the school damaged Choi’s self-esteem. The teacher had favorites, and they were the skinniest, boniest girls in the class, Choi said.

Yearning to be a favorite and being as young, passionate and competitive as she was, Choi would end up skipping meals. Choi never realized that people could still be good dancers even if they weren’t skinny until she came to the United States.

“I was amazed at all the different body types dancers had here,” she said.

So what is left to accomplish for a person who admits there is nothing she’s ever wanted that she didn’t get? Choi’s answer is a full-time job at TCC. She loves teaching and being able to watch her students grow, she said.

She also wants to continue dancing and being an inspiration to her students until she’s 80.

“Teaching and meeting students is what keeps my life going,” Choi said. “I would be miserable without that. My students are my babies.”

Choi’s objectives for her classes are to be caring and challenging and to form a community among her students.

NE student Jana Stukanov said Choi is sweet and caring in her teaching methods.

“There is not a mean bone, muscle, tendon or ligament in her body,” she said. “She is always there to help you, and she wants you to get it.”

Choi is the best dance teacher she’s ever had, Stukanov said.

“She’s selfless and challenges your strength, not only physically but mentally,” she said.

NE student Melissa Taylor gave a warning to future students who will take Choi’s class.

“Be prepared to get your butt kicked and work hard,” Taylor said. “If you apply yourself, expect a lot of growth because she’s amazing!”

Choi never lets students relax and is not happy until they give their all through the entire semester, Taylor added.

Jasmine Mendoza, TR student, is thankful for what Choi does.

“She’s very inspiring. She makes it easy for everyone to understand,” Mendoza said. “She will help you one on one, and she goes out of her way for you.”

Mendoza said she cried during one of her ballet point strengthening exercises because the pain was so extreme.

“She makes you embrace the pain,” Mendoza said. “She knows from that pain comes results.”

Mary Lynn, co-founder of Satellite Dance Collective, said she loves working with Choi.

“Choi has a very professional way of working. She’s very responsible, and her work ethic is hard to find,” Lynn said. “I like her fierceness about her technique and her strong stage presence.

“She puts everything she has into a performance. She goes the extra mile, takes risks and achieves the intent.”



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